The most difficult bridge to cross is in your mind

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Three weeks have gone by since attacks on churches first took place in the State with all people of all communities with any goodwill keeping their fingers crossed.

Thankfully last Sunday went by in much greater peace and sanity than the two previous ones without any untoward incidents in the State even as reports of sporadic violence trickled in from other States.

Since I too was a little concerned and anxious that this kind of communal tension should quickly be defused, I was carefully scanning all reports that were appearing in the media about the problem.

While there were many views expressed by many intellectuals, thankfully one thing that stood out was the sentiment that the attacks on churches were unwarranted and unbecoming of a civilised society.

Thankfully, this was the view that was expressed even by all those who felt that conversions were the cause and conversions were very wrong.

Most people who wrote in favour of adopting strong deterrent action against violence also wrote in favour of acknowledging all the good that had been done to our society by Christians.

What surprised me was the fact that articles expressing these sentiments that appeared on the net far outnumbered the ones that appeared in print.

Gladdened by what I read therein, I felt that if only these could be read by more people it would have been good.

Sadly, despite the phenomenal growth of the cyber media even in our country, the net is still accessible only to a relative small minority of serious intellectuals while the newspaper and the local televi-sion channels still remain the main source of information to the common man.

It is noteworthy that Christians, who have been under suspicion of harbouring a sinister agenda in the present series of attacks, have by and large been a very peaceful community. Also, they have been the ones who have most comfortably adapted to a harmonious existence with all other communities with their hallmark being an immense re sistance to any provocation.

If excessive evangelisation and conversions had been the real provoking cause for the violence we all saw recently, I am sure the organisations responsible for it would certainly have heeded any advice against it without warranting or necessitating any violent resistance.

Personally I do not think that religious conversions, the causes of which have been analysed and discussed by many learned thinkers, are going to make any significant difference, let alone any dent on the demographic profile of our vast country.

It is important for every non-Christian Indian to remember the pioneering contribution of the Christian community in general and the Christian nuns and priests in particular who actually came to our shores as evange-lising missionaries, for all the good that they have done. Especially, their contribution to the establishment of good education and health care traditions and facilities in our country when almost none existed should never be overlooked.

Our present generations which have the best of both these facilities if they happen to dwell either in or around our cities, may not be aware of this contribution of the Christians but they need to be told about it.

Although we can now boast of almost world-class facilities in these two vital sectors it is no secret that we have still not fully succeeded in touching the lives of those fellow countrymen who still dwell in the deepest reaches of our remote villages and tribal areas far beyond the reach of all progress and development.

They have no other source of light except the feeble and flickering glow of the Christian candle.

Our great country has always been a crucible of amalgamation which has allowed the simultaneous flourishing of many religions, philosophies and cultures without any sense of threat to each other.

Conversions have been a part of every religion without any exception.

Our world famous Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebid which we all proudly present as one of the best examples of our rich culture was in fact built to commemorate king Vishnuvardhana‘s conversion from Jainism to Hinduism in the 12th century. But it does not provoke any resentment in our hearts whatsoever.

Today any effort, however small or big, which is aimed at increasing communal harmony and soothing bruised hearts, is what our nationhood needs to become strong and prosperous.

I shall give a very small but significant example to illustrate this point.

In response to an article about the spirit of Ramzan I had written four weeks ago, I received much feedback and many responses from readers. Many non-Muslims particularly were very appreciative that I had brought out many positive aspects about Islamic social justice which were hitherto unknown to them. While most people told me that what I had written was a good effort at creating better understanding between different faiths, one e-mail stood out apart from the rest.

It was from Nanjaraja Jois, a former professor of physics. He had written to say that he was deeply touched by the importance given in Islam to charity and alms giving and particularly to Zakath, the mandatory charity. In his letter, Prof Jois expressed his desire to personally get involved in this aspect of the Islamic spirit in his own way by visiting a Muslim orphanage and making a small donation to help the inmates there.

Overwhelmed by his sense of empathy and brotherhood I spoke to Abdul Azeez Chand, the secretary of the local Muslim girls orphanage who immediately asked me to inform Prof Jois that he was welcome to visit the place with his family even without prior notice.

On a prearranged date we met at the orphanage and in addition to his wife Leela and son Anoop, a full-time pranic healer, Prof. Jois was accompanied by Seethalakshmi and P. S. Balakrishnan who were closely involved with him in social work.

Impressed by what they saw there, the good Samaritans agreed in unison that this orphanage was the best maintained of the eight orphanages they had visited in the City. They announced the assistance that they had so kindly wanted to make, touching the inmates with their love and concern.

Uninvited they had come, crossing the great divide that we have ourselves created, thanks to the difference in our faiths and reached out to those in need of help.

After they left I felt that this is what humanity is all about and this is what all of us as human beings should learn—rising above our petty differences of race, religion and caste and responding to the needs of fellow human beings as children of one God.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician, who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece first appeared)